There was quite a fight this weekend. Two of the biggest names in their sport going head to head. It was the kind of athletic affair portrayed in movies like Rocky.
No, I’m not talking about the Floyd Mayweather/Conor McGregor boxing match in Las Vegas. That was more akin to Aesop’s “Tortoise and the Hare.” McGregor raced out of the gate in Round 1. By Round 4, he was spent. Once again, steady beat flashy. Perseverence defeated raw power.
The real heavyweight spectacle took place at the Glen Oaks Golf Club in Old Westbury, New York. The contenders? Jordan Spieth and Dustin Johnson. These two links pugilists battled to a draw through 13 rounds after Spieth squandered a five point lead on the judges’ scorecards. In the 14th round, Spieth connected on a short upper-cut to take a one point lead matched only by a similar punch by Johnson in the 15th round. Tied again with three rounds to go.
At the end of a prize fight, it is not always about winning. Sometimes it is about surviving. In the 17th round, Johnson set up what appeared to be a knockout blow. Spieth was on the defensive. Yet, out of nowhere, Spieth once again did what he has done on so many occasions. He held Johnson off, throwing a difficut left to right hook from 18 feet 11 inches, which barely connected with its target.
Round 18 was Johnson’s turn. After two uncharacteristic lapses, the world’s #1 ranked golfer faced a 17 foot 5 inch punch no one expected him to master. After all, the last time he and Spieth had been locked in battle, Johnson missed a much easier three and a half foot putt to lose the 2015 U.S. Open. But connect he did with a right/left hook which grazed its target at the last moment. After 18 rounds on Sunday (72 overall) both competitors demonstrated they were worthy of the Northern Trust Championship belt and a lead in the FedEx Cup playoffs.
In one respect, golf resembles professional boxing before a limit on the number of rounds was imposed after the Jack Johnson versus Jim Flynn matchup on July 4, 1912. There are no ties or decisions. Like the earlier era of boxing, it is sudden death (or at least sudden knockout). In those days, the longer the match went, the competitors tended to take more chances. Matches would often end with a successful haymaker or as the result of a wild miss followed by an effective counter punch.
When Dustin Johnson lined up on the tee on the first extra hole, you knew he had decided to go for broke. It turned out to be a one-two punch for the ages. Taking a shortcut over the lake which abuts the 90-degree dogleg in the 18th fairway, Johnson landed just 90 yards from the pin which was 470 yards from the tee. A quick jab stopped within three feet of its mark. A near gimme birdie and the match was over.
Throughout the day both players appeared to be down for the count. Both bounced back and battled gallantly until the end. Now that’s what I call a real heavyweight prize fight sans bloody cuts or bruises. And the only weight that mattered in this tale of the tape was that of the heart.
For what it’s worth.